Culinary Arts Ākonga Gain Experience with Country's Top Chefs

Toi Ohomai Culinary Arts ākonga

Tuesday, 02 Jul 2024

Working alongside some of the country’s top chefs at a prestigious Matariki fine-dining event has been a highlight of 2024 for eight emerging chefs. 

Tohunga Tūmau Puanga Matariki Dinner is a showcase of Aotearoa New Zealand's finest Māori food, beverage, entertainment and culinary arts. 

Organisers reached out to the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training (MPTT) team at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology to see if any culinary arts ākonga were interested in getting some hands-on experience and assisting with the event. 

Eight ākonga across two different courses put their hands up to take part and learn from some of the country’s leading chefs. 

Jacob McDonald, who is studying the New Zealand Diploma in Cookery, had the opportunity to work alongside Rewi Spraggon.

“We knew we’d be cooking but didn’t know exactly what we would be doing until we got there.”

The fine dining event caters for nearly 650 people and features a menu full of indigenous ingredients, prepared by some of the most renowned Māori chefs.

“It was an amazing learning experience,” Jacob says. 

“Personally, I was taught how to lay a hāngī, which I hadn’t done before, but also present it amongst a fine-dining menu. It was really interesting.”

Kirsty Wiringi assisted Karena and Kasey Bird with their menu items and says the experience goes beyond that singular event.

“I’ve actually had some amazing opportunities come out of being there. I’ve been approached by other chefs who have offered me other opportunities.” 

In-industry Diploma student Josh Diack worked alongside Tama Salive and Liam Tito-Salive and says all the chefs at the event were great to work with. 

“Everyone was really friendly and helpful, you could ask questions and they took the time to explain things through.” 

Hamiora Mutu, who is also completing the Diploma in Cookery while working in-industry, worked alongside Rewi Spraggon.

“It was an incredible experience working alongside Rewi, the hāngī master. We cooked using the traditional hāngī method preparing delicious kai which had smoky, earthy flavours. 

“We also used a smoker for meats like blue cod, salmon and venison. Overall it was a memorable experience that deepened my love of Māori cuisine and techniques.” 

Other ākonga who assisted included, Keegan Delaney alongside Tama Salive, Brooklyn Dalton and Makayla Todd with Peter Gordon, and Sasha-Lee Tawhara with Nancye Pirini.

Tohunga Tūmau aims to be a unique experience, that provides an opportunity to bring together colleagues, friends and clients for reflection at this important time of the year. 

As well as a five-course menu, the evening featured fine wines, musicians, and a full line-up of entertainment. 

Pictured: Back row, from left: Jacob McDonald, Keegan Delaney and Josh Diack.
Front row, from left: Makayla Todd, Brooklyn Dalton, Sasha-Lee Tawhara and Kirsty Wiringi.

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